Sat, 22 Feb 2003

Spirit of Bandung over KL

Sin Chew Daily Asia News Network Selangor, Malaysia

Over the last two weeks, the local media have cooked up the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit. News related to the summit have filled the air. Driving into Kuala Lumpur, one will not fail to encounter that kind of atmosphere as the city is bracing itself for the big day.

At the same time, the global anti-war wave has swept into Malaysia, with political parties, ruling or opposition, and non- governmental organizations laying down their differences to protest against any U.S.-led military offensive against Iraq.

All at once, Malaysia's political environment is heated up. People are beginning to switch their attention to the NAM Summit in Kuala Lumpur. Even the war atmosphere in far away Persian Gulf is fast spreading its wings here.

Malaysians begin to feel that they are so much closer to the world now. Everyone is hoping that this collective feeling and voice will be brought to the world through the NAM Summit.

Such a sentiment is slowing rising to the sky. Gazing into the sky and we are like almost seeing the spectre of the Bandung Conference nearly half a century ago hanging above Kuala Lumpur.

I was yet to be born to see or feel the spirit of the 1955 Bandung Conference in Indonesia. But as I grew up much later and as my uncles recalled the Bandung meet, I could see their faces flushed with pride and excitement. That had aroused my curiosity and admiration. Later, I exhausted all kinds of avenues to find out more about the content of the Bandung meet and began to realize its significance and noble stature.

1950s, a decade when nationalism was fast sweeping across the continents of Asia, Africa and Latin America. The people living on these continents had tried all kinds of ways to break free from the bondage of Western colonial powers.

It was also a time when the world began to slip into the Cold- War era. The U.S. and the erstwhile Soviet Union had tried their suppression and flattery tricks across the globe, with canons or cash, as they established their influences throughout much of the world.

While struggling to break free from the bondage of their colonial masters, leaders and common citizens in Asia, Africa and Latin America were also struggling to stop the wave of U.S.-USSR neo-colonialism from sweeping over their countries.

During that turbulent time, the world saw a few noble, bold and respectable leaders in the likes of Indonesian President Sukarno, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai and Yugoslav President Marshal Tito.

In the highland city of Bandung, these leaders mapped out the grand objectives for the world of the future, including respect for territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, equality and peaceful coexistence.

Even by today's standards, the spirit of Bandung is still divinely great because it aspires to struggle for the sovereignty and pride of large majority of people in this world. Its objectives are far-fetching: to create a more peaceful order for the world. Its format is human, where every race is of equal importance and treats one another with brotherly love.

Guided by such a spirit, the Non-Aligned Movement was established in 1961.

But, even with a splendid aspiration, reality remains cruel.

Over the past four decades, while NAM might have carried the skeleton of Bandung Conference, it has somehow lost that kind of spirit it should have.

Despite the expanding membership, the organization's strength has not grown in tandem. Many countries are still struggling between wealth and poverty, between prosperity and underdevelopment, such that they have lost their ability to pursue the Bandung spirit.

Some countries, for the sake of their bare survival or their leaders' needs, have even succumbed to the prowess of U.S. and USSR in exchange for the much needed weapons or hard cash.

After the collapse of Soviet Union, the U.S. becomes the world's sole superpower, and non-aligned third world countries are beginning to go even further away from the original spirit.

Non-Aligned Movement becomes more like a formality than anything else. Leaders continue to attend the meetings and go, leaving behind them empty promises and pledges to evaporate into the air. And it is also because of this that many have predicted that NAM will eventually be buried in history.

But now, the world is experiencing yet new changes, and the world is again rising up against authoritarian powers. Gradually, nations are shedding their submissiveness and standing up to make their voices heard.

From the anti-war voices across the planet, we can vaguely see the rebirth of Bandung spirit. This time, the spectre of Bandung Conference has, fortunately, chosen Kuala Lumpur.